Fort Wilson Riot CD Release Party at the Kitty Cat Klub

Jacob Mullis and Amy Hager of Fort Wilson Riot - Photo by Meredith Westin

Amy Hager and Jacob Mullis of Fort Wilson Riot looked innocent as they assembled on stage at the Kitty Cat Klub on Friday night for their CD release show. The venue was fairly packed, and Hager and Mullis smiled and waved to friends as they set up.

But the duo’s sophomore release, Predator/Prey, is anything but innocent, boasting an eclectic but carefully planned mix of instruments and contributions from talented friends.

On the new album, Hager and Mullis switch off on guitar, keys, bass, percussion, and vocals, while Hager expertly layers in trumpet on some tracks. A close listen to the album and you’ll pick out other instruments: marimba, kalimba, accordion, flute, clarinet, cello, euphonium, and saxophone are all captured as if Hager and Mullis wanted to fit as much of an orchestra into their recording as possible. Part of this may be homage to their 2007 album Idigaragua, which was part opera, part rock ‘n’ roll treasure, but for the most part, it’s a sign of the brazen musical innovation the duo seem driven to produce.

Describing the sound of Fort Wilson Riot is like trying to describe the sound of a tornado: reckless and unpredictable, with so many things happening at the same time, but somehow still delivering the majesty of the storm itself and the quiet of the air after it. Hager and Mullis segue from catchy pop to experimental garage rock to strangely beautiful gypsy ballads in a seamless journey; the listener is entranced but never lost.

For their Predator/Prey release, the duo delivered nothing less than a cyclone of furious sounds, switching back and forth between keys and guitar, and sharing vocals. Hager’s atmospheric soprano is a surprising complement to Mullis’s earthy tone, and the two layered their harmonies perfectly. Between songs, they thanked everyone for coming out, praising the opening bands (the similarly manic Phantom Tails and the always dynamic Zoo Animal).

The pair invited some of their special album guests to help celebrate, and they were joined on stage for some songs by Jason Pape on saxophone, Logan Kerkhof on euphonium, Sergio Hernandez on marimba and Orion Treon on accordion, among others. The crowd was supportive, and as the final song ended in a frenzied amalgamation of sound and exuberance, the yells of the audience competed for air time.

If Fort Wilson Riot is a tornado, their live act is a perfect balance of the calm before the storm and the glittering excitement of its strength. More than just musicians, they are composers—and seeing them practice is a thing to see.

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